The Renovation of Skylark

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The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:51 pm

Had my 993 pop top camper 'Skylark' since October and been gradually looking at things to make her a bit more modern, after all she is 17 years old now and something's were starting to look a little tired. I am fortunate that she was re-sprayed about 2 years ago so for the outside she looks fine and bodywork has little or no rust I can find. The down side are the leisure electrics, internal decoration, no insulation, leaking side opening windows, dash that you cant see after dark, a cooker unit that has seen better days, a radio that only had speakers in the rear, seating units that look as though they have been cobbled together and cushions that are a little out of date now. Mechanical wise it did run fine once a thermostat was refitted and it had a service but the dreaded overheat has appeared which was probably reason the previous owners removed the thermostat! Anyway I just love this van, cant say I've had as much fun driving for a long while or as comfortable a driving position and I am 6' 1" at that! All in all its been an interesting journey so far...but what else could it have been with a Hijet! Been taking a few photos as I've gone along so I thought I'd start to keep a bit of an online story going. So here goes:



Here's what we started with, not bad in anyone's book I suppose.


First job was a trip to the garage to get her checked out and a thermostat fitted. Turns out as thought she is in fact not in too bad a condition. A lesson in how to bleed the air out from Woody was also in order.


Now I can see what I'm doing at night courtesy of some LED strip lights in the Speedo binnacle, much better.


Radio fix next, it now actually turns off when I take the ignition key out (terrible memory, that's another job to have a warning buzzer for lights!)


Speakers in the front doors to give that surround sound effect...well not really, but I can now hear what's on when driving!





Next was to reinstate the original (or as close as) stickers to the van, not keen of the existing Flash Gordon type flashes down the side!. These are not originals but some I redrew and had printed from photos and dimensions from people on the forum, Thanks!


Now for the bigger job, stripped out all the units and removed all the old, dirty wall carpet/covering. You didn't realise how dirty some of it was until you compared it to some that had been hidden. While it was stripped back I added some sound deadening flashing to the panels and doors and some heat insulation to all I could get to including the pop top roof.


Speaking of the roof, the handle mechanism on mine anyway (don't know if its normal) always hung down right at forehead level when the roof was down and just got in the way, so a bit of thinking provided the solution, move the bottom pivot hole that is in the roof frame forward toward the driver by 1 5/8" approx. and hey presto the handle now sits snuggly up into the rood area away from foreheads!


Van now recovered with Light Grey covering and looking a treat! Was a bit worried at first with the roof and all the curves, wheel arches to do etc but the material does stretch and form well, you have to pull and push it to the shapes but once you start its fine. Took me about three day time sessions to do the van so far. Now just got to remake all the door cards as the originals were screwed to the doors and had got wet so were warped more than Captain Kirk on Star Trek would have liked. That's now a half term job. They will be covered in Anthracite covering just to make it a bit different. The small pockets for storage in the roof gulley have also to be remade but I'm going to veneer these to match the remade kitchen unit which will also be veneered. Trying to sort out what material to use at the moment to keep the weight down. Did read somewhere that every extra 100Kg decreases fuel consumption by about 4% and as its only 993cc any lessening of the load helps.




While looking at the overheat issue I saw that the existing Grill cover in front of the radiator actually covers up part of the what is already a small radiator, so got distracted by looking at how to make a new grill. Got a very cheap 1.3 grill from fleabay and broke out the saw. A few cuts later, a bit of plastic welding and I have a grill that fits and does not cover the radiator. Its not finished yet, just a work in progress.

All ready for a coat of paint.


Next is another visit to the garage for a cam belt change, water pump and a check of the head gasket so time will tell. As they say, no one said it would be easy.....or cheap! Did honestly think I would be able to do the mechanical bits myself but never seem to get the time that would be needed as well as sorting out the interior so succumbed to putting my hand in my pocket and letting the garage do it, I'm fortunate that the garage has worked on my friends Hijet before and they are an ex Diahatsu dealership who have experience of them. I'll try and keep this thread updated, may help some people, oh and many thanks to all the forumites who have helped me get this far, you know who you are.


Last edited by Raggy on Sat Jan 16, 2016 1:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by PFM on Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:19 pm

Looking good - are you going to put the units back or leave them out?

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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:45 pm

Thats one of the next jobs, got to remake them (well dont have to but would be a shame not to now I have got to this stage). Will use existing sink/cooker unit as a pattern but need to sort out rear seating. Its currently been cut about to make it all level across both side but that has knock on effect that seating is low (to allow passenger side peson to get their legs under cooker unit and make driver side person to be at same level) and cant have gas bottle connected with seat down. Think going back to standard, drivers side higher so seating is more comfortable and better for sitting at table, and passenger side lower just for sleeping. This also allow gas bottle to be connected while seat down and possibly have the porta poti we have with the van fitted under seat.
At moment trying find someone who will sell lightweight oak veneered furniture board...found some who either will not deliver or want a minimum order of 10 sheets and at around £50 for an 8x4 sheet I dont think so!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Sat Jan 16, 2016 12:55 pm


The existing cards, hed been damp, warped and then screwed to the doors.

Todays job is... new door cards. A bit better, now just got to cover them...then another 4 to do!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:19 am


Just got around to covering the panels, quite happy with how they came out. Now to do the other 4 I need to do!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Woodie on Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:29 pm

Superb job Raggy. I will put all 7 of mine in the post to you in the near future. Er, what shall I do about the remaining 10 sets of trim.. Bring them up in a Van. No, don't answer that question.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:17 pm

Laughing Just remember...if you send the cards I would probably request all those little plastic clips as well!  Shocked I know how you enjoyed getting that last order...and there were only a couple....

Was originally just going to cover them all the same but thought why not do something a little different. Now do I do the front to match?...think I may leave all front as standard....then again?
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Woodie on Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:21 pm

Then again, NOT! The two tone scheme looks great. Very professional. Superb job of the backing panels too. Clever old stick.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Sat Feb 20, 2016 7:43 pm


Think I have too much time on my hands at the moment! Just using SketchUp to try and see how I can sort out the seating/bed/cooker arrangement in the camper. Think I got it sorted, fairly similar to standard but just altered the seating a little to include a portapotti, leisure battery and gas bottle. Have raised the seating from what I inherited, more back to standard height now. Now all I have to do is make it!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by maralions on Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:55 pm

Can I ask why you've changed it/redone it from the original layout?

When I got Fran I was all for changing everything, making new boxes etc. and I might still do this. I started to take everything out to put in a wood effect vinyl floor but it turned into a faff with the battery and the water tank which are well and truly stuck in. Add to that 15 years of rusted screws and I gave up Smile

Since then I've convinced myself that it's fine the way it is. I'd love to have it as a double though and I can't help but think that everything is really unnecessarily heavy.

Are you keeping the same table? I want to do a new top for mine as it weighs a ton.

Pictures to follow tomorrow seeing as she's made it home.

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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Mon Feb 22, 2016 10:18 pm

Reason for the change is that ours will be more of a day van so happy for compromise to be on sleep area rather than seating height. Cooker unit is 18mm MDF and believe me its not a light unit (its same as the table top). Going to use 15mm lightweight ply to save weight, not sure for table top yet untill I get my hands on lightweight ply to see how much it flexs. Leisure Battery was behind the passenger seat (too tall for existing unit) and gas bottle couldnt be connected with seat down as regulator made it too tall, hence redesign, battery moved to drivers side, seats made taller (more to standard) so all 'will' fit correctly. It was all made from standard ply but covered in rubbish (old and grubby) carpeting so it will now be done on light oak faced lightweight ply to freshen it up a bit.
Yes, the screws around the water tank were rusted on mine but a bit of work with a chisel, screwdriver etc soon sorted them. Unfortunately I now have rather a large pile of bits in the garage that need refurbishing or replacing and putting back!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by maralions on Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:03 pm

Your animation has just worked for me. Looks great! I'm a little confused about the middle bit - will this fold so you can sit or stay as a sort of permanent bed?

I've just posted some pics of mine in the other thread.

Let me know if you want some help with making new cushions Smile

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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Feb 23, 2016 6:02 pm

The middle bits in the walkway are temporary so it creates a wider space to lie on for one person. They span the gap but have a leg that will open out to support it and make it stable. When not in use they will be flat so they can go in the storage under the seats. There is not much space so its trying to make the most of it for how you intend to use it.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by maralions on Tue Feb 23, 2016 6:11 pm

Cool. Are you still intending to sleep two, i.e. one on the original higher bench behind the driver and then that wider one underneath? How does it work with the little seat behind the passenger being higher? It looks like a good modification. I'm thinking about replacing the tops of all the boxes to look nicer as someone's put some 15 year old duct tape on and I can't get the bloody stuff off. Actually seems easier (and more sensible) to remake the old ones with nicer tops. I'm really tempted to remake the whole thing out of lighter stuff but again it's getting the whole set up out including the wired in cooker and sink that puts me off.

I also really wanted to make it into a double sleeper instead of two separate singles but couldn't find a way to make it work - can't lower the driver bit because of the gas bottle and and can't bring the passenger one up because then there'd be no leg room under the cooker.



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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Feb 23, 2016 7:13 pm

You got the conundrum in one! Spent many a time pondering and measuring that one and come to conclusion it has to be a compromise. Low seating all round for double, high seating means two separate beds. At an age where that wont matter! Shocked Embarassed

Anyway taking the cooker out is easy, disconnect pipe (water and gas) and two wires to tap, one screw left hand side, couple into water tank surround (these were the difficult ones due to rust), couple of screws in bracket on right under sink side and Bobs your uncle it lifts straight out.

On mine, behind the passenger seat I am intending to make it the high level but when I need it to be a seaping arrangement the top section will lift off to leave a lower section. The two parts to be clipped together for high seat.

May investigate a swivel for the passenger seat to give another seating option but that may be too expensive from what I have seen the swivel plates to be. Some of the Devon conversions had a swivel front seat.

As for another option for full width sleeping would be to totally redesign it to a Devon Bambino conversion which has the cooker unit across the back of the van so no restriction, do like that set up but for me I need the long space down the middle for my bike.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by maralions on Tue Feb 23, 2016 7:23 pm

Yep! The whole thing is a pain in the arse.

I might just leave the kitchen in but put a self supporting sliding shelf or drawer. And I need to paint it. Might just leave it in and take the sink and cooker out for ease of painting. All of this is second to the engine anyway!!

And let's be honest, we can mess around with the arrangement all we want but at the end the day it's tiny and with two people in you both need to be contortionists. Smile

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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Feb 23, 2016 7:36 pm

Contotionists or very good friends!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Sat Feb 27, 2016 7:53 pm

Just time for a quick update on progress so far:

Managed to finish and bolt the 'new' grill onto Skylark, very happy with how its turned out.

Installed the new door cards, again very happy with these and

Fitted the other panels, rear door and van sides etc.
Next job are the roof corner storage pockets.


Last edited by Raggy on Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:58 pm


Roof storage pockets cut out

Small brackets to fix storage panels to side and roof rather than just wall carpet as it was before which dried up and the panels were falling off! Going to use door clips to fix panels to brackets and veneer over front of panel so fixings are hidden...I hope!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Woodie on Mon Feb 29, 2016 12:25 am

Superb work Raggy. Have you realised that you have found a new vocation in addition to supplement the day job?
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by elfin girl on Mon Feb 29, 2016 1:33 am

It's looking Cosy already Smile
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Mon Feb 29, 2016 6:39 am

Woodie wrote:Superb work Raggy. Have you realised that you have found a new vocation in addition to supplement  the day job?
These days honestly wish it could replace the day job!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Logi on Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:12 pm

This is a damned interesting thread, keep it up Smile
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:35 pm

I aim to please....and eventually get it finished! Got some nice bits waiting to go in, new leisure electrics and just ordered some material for the cab headlining. That's the trouble, when you sort out one area it makes the others that you thought were Ok look a bit grubby and worn out! Glad you enjoying it as I certainly am doing it.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by danielfrisbee on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:45 pm

enjoying this thread too.. I'm doing a similar thing but very slowly with an emphasis on bodging it as I'm not that fussy. I put some of that colour led strip lighting in the gully around the roof on the inside aiming up, it's quite effective and a lot less tacky than I expected, makes it feel like a private jet with an illuminated ceiling. The u.v leds lighting the dash read out worked really well, and the big stereo sounds quite good. I'll make a thread for it and been taking photos, however currently there isn't much to look at. Funny you mentioned contortionists, I'm only little and my recently acquired girlfriend is a dancing former Olympic gymnast so little camping trips in the microvan will be easier for us than some of you bigger people..
Lovely job you've done.

Have you noticed much difference with the damping insulation on the panels? Thinking to do that since it's easier to build from there inwards than do it last.. My foam and material covered ceiling is however filthy from the formerly leaking sunroof, not thrilled about trying to pull all that off and replace, though if I did it would be a good excuse to damp the roof.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:11 am

Does not sound as tinny when shutting the doors etc. The roof material can be a pain to get off, mine was anyway, top surfave comes off and leaves on mine any way the foam which had to be scraped of. Got to do front cab area head lining yet.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:51 am

Time for an update, managed to get the roof storage pockets done and fitted. Enjoyed doing that, been a while since I have done a bit of woodwork.


Next job is the cab head lining but before that I was going to recover the front seats but managed to find some unmarked blue Smart car seats for less that what it would have cost me to recover them how I wanted. So its a trip up to the north east at the weekend as it turns out they are only two streets away from my brother in laws! Spooky!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Woodie on Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:32 pm

Love the lockers Raggy. By the time you have finished, she will be one of the most prestigious Devon's in the land.
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by HighlyJetted on Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:47 pm

I've never seen this thread before.

Grill looks good, and the interior work looks like its happening to a very good standard!
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Re: The Renovation of Skylark

Post by Raggy on Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:58 pm

Thanks, the grill was done after inspiration of looking at your rear spoiler thread. Even considered doing that as well as an ignis one cropped up on eBay just down the road from me for hardly anything but I think I have enough to be doing for the moment.
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